Live: Raekwon Turns Prospect Park Into Another Corner Of His World


Raekwon, Smif-N-Wessun, Joell Ortiz
Celebrate Brooklyn! at Prospect Park Bandshell
Saturday, July 9

Better than: “Salem (DJ set)” at Brooklyn Bowl

The Prospect Park Bandshell is probably the best place to catch a hip-hop show in the New York City summer. Yes, you’re going to have to stand in a line that stretches beyond the park’s BBQs and puggles to get a metal detector wand waved in front of your junk. (Uh, did you guys do that before the Andrew Bird show?) But the park’s all-inclusivity and neighborhood picnic feel makes it the rare occasion to see, say, Skyzoo perform his underrated, chest-caving “Speakers On Blast” while watching antsy little kids fidget like they’re at the opera and earnest, elderly white ladies making the most of their Celebrate Brooklyn! memberships.

Fortunately no one celebrates Brooklyn like Joell Ortiz, who somehow managed to perform “Brooklyn” and “Brooklyn Bullshit” back to back for Saturday’s Lyricist Lounge-curated throwdown. Naturally, he got a hero’s welcome from his borough, but he didn’t understood the neighborhood as well as Smif-N-Wessun’s Tek, who performed their “Timz N Hood Check “while literally pushing his daughter in a stroller. Hello, Park Slope!

Raekwon’s hourlong headlining set, however, made no concessions to anybody—we were in Rae’s world, and we just had to hold on tight and follow along. The night went essentially like this: one verse, one chorus, annoying explosion sound, flighty banter—repeat approximately 22 times in a mere hour (plus one 7th Chamber Stretch to catch his breath and listen to Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings Of You”). His DJ dropped manic fragments of old-school rap songs (“Top Billin’,” “I Ain’t No Joke,” etc.) as Rae blurred past his 90-second rhyme sprees, driving the ADD feel up another notch. Rae burned through song after song after song—new ones, old ones, shit off Immobilarity that you totally forgot existed, Wu-Tang songs like “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'” (he just did U-God’s verse), a tribute to OBD that was just the crowd screaming along to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” a chunk of “Triumph” until he forgot the words. He had even more that he wanted to do until he was cut off by the 10:30 curfew.

At one point, he asked the crowd if they liked where hip-hop was going, which was received with a resounding “boooooo.” Thankfully, he assured us all, “Rae ain’t going nowhere. Rae right here with a new pair of sneakers.”

Critical bias: I still lounge around the house in my XXL Wu Wear shirt from 1997.

Overheard (on Twitter): “Why did Raekwon come on stage wearing a purple shirt looking like Barney and rocking a murse?” –@TheElroyJenkins

Random notebook dump: After passing the Cake Vs. Shake cart, I couldn’t not hear its name in my head to the tune of Rae’s “Meth Vs. Chef.”

Set list:
Can It Be All So Simple?
Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’
Glaciers Of Ice
Ice Cream
Surgical Gloves
Verbal Intercourse
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Your Beef Is Mine
Heaven & Hell
Rainy Dayz
10 Bricks
About Me
Yae Yo
Broken Safety
Rock N Roll
Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit
Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
Incarcerated Scarfaces